Story of Masako Katsura:
She was one of the most important and famous billiard players of the twentieth century, competing in a sport that was purely male at the time
Masako Katsura, one of the most famous carom players of the twentieth century, is the protagonist of today’s Google doodle, to remember her central role in opening up to women a traditionally male sport such as billiards. Katsura was among the first carom players in Japan and later became internationally known after her move to the United States.
There is not much news about Katsura’s childhood: she was born in 1913 in the Tokyo area and was raised by her older sister, after the death of her father when she was a girl. She learned to play pool from her sister’s husband, specializing in carom techniques and challenging some players when she was 14. She later won the first pool tournaments and decided to become a professional player, with the support of her sister. She won numerous competitions, becoming well known in Japan in the late 1940s.
In 1950, Masako Katsura married Vernon Greenleaf, a US soldier serving in Japan. They met during a performance in Tokyo of Katsura, who later became Greenleaf’s snooker teacher. The following year they moved to the United States and in 1952 Katsura participated in a first world championship, finishing seventh and becoming the first woman to ever participate in a world pool competition.
The event gave her great notoriety and allowed her to participate in various initiatives and exhibitions in the United States. Between the late 1950s and early 1960s she was a guest on several television broadcasts, making her even more famous than her. She took part in another world championship in 1961, where she challenged Harold Worst, the world champion at the time and against whom she lost. It was her last major participation.
In the following years Katsura withdrew from the carom, participating only occasionally in some competitions. In the early 1990s she returned to Japan, where she died in 1995 when she was 82.